Healthy Competition: The Story Of My Gym Rival

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I show up to the gym before sunrise. I’m coffeed up and feel like I’m on a mission to dominate the land. There, fastening her bike to a tree outside, I spot my nemesis. With chestnut hair neatly tied back into a braid, our eyes meet for just a moment before quickly darting away. It’s exactly 5:01 a.m. as we enter the gym, and we’re ready to go.

There’s Not Enough Room for Two…

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We don’t speak but we both know: This gym isn’t big enough for both of us.

It all started when I noticed we were on identical workout schedules. We’re always the first two people pressed against the gym gate, chomping at the bit. And when it comes to fitness, neither one of us horse around. Once unleashed, we’re running at full speed side by side on the Woodway Treadmills.

At first, I thought it was a coincidence. I figured we just had similar routines at the same ungodly hour— that there was no way she was really sizing me up the way I imagined. But then, I’d catch her icy cold stare in the reflection by the weight room just as she jacked up the frequency of her reps. She’d be standing there spinning a medicine ball around her torso so fast it made my head spin.

An Epic Standoff: My Official Rival

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I knew we were officially at a standoff one rainy morning. We were both locked out of the gym because the person working the front desk had slept in. A whole hour went by as the two of us stood there outside in complete silence. Finally, I mustered up the courage to say something to her. I uttered, “I can’t believe we’ve had to stand here for an hour.”

What my gym rival said next still gives me goosebumps. She responded, “I’m glad I already ran at the track before I came.”

I felt my knees weaken. I determined she’d awoken at 4 a.m. to start her training that day. It had never occurred to me until that moment that she utilized the track nearby in addition to the gym. Once I learned this, I couldn’t erase the startling thought from my mind: there is someone else on this planet just as crazy as I am. My biggest fear was validated. I knew I had my work cut out for me if I was ever going to keep up with her.

That’s when I decided we were rivals. We’re a couple of ectomorphs with Nordic features, and anyone can tell from a mile away that we probably descend from the same Viking tribe back in the day. While we both share an undying commitment to excel above and beyond human limitations, we are constantly trying to outdo one another with our accomplishments at the gym.

The first time I ran 10 miles in under an hour I remember looking over at her spying my times. I was so glad she’d seen that, and I hopped off the treadmill with accomplishment swelling in my chest. I took a dramatic swig of water and wiped the sweat from my brow. I looked up at her as if to say, “There’s more where that came from.”

Just a few days later, it seemed as though she had a comeback to my epic 10-miler. I was climbing the stair machine behind the treadmills when I witnessed her perform one of most insane workouts I’d ever seen. She spent an hour sprinting at 11-12 mph intervals. But what impressed me most was that all of her off reps were spent doing full-body movements like push-ups and planks. As I watched this whole thing go down, my quads began to burn. I’d had enough of the stairs and descended to the stretching area where I foam rolled in self-doubt. No matter how fast I run, she’ll always get me with the upper body strength.

Motivation and Inspiration Where You Least Expect It

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But, as much as I detest her, I need her. She’s the inspiration that fuels me to go a little harder than I wanted to. I’m motivated athletically by greatness because I know that if someone else can do it, so can I.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t always wonder what would happen if I tried to be friends with her. I’ll find myself in the locker room after a workout, endorphins pumping, with a new outlook on life. I’ll contemplate how we could be partners in crime if we were to join forces. We have so much in common, after all. But just then, my nemesis will come blazing out of the changing stall, grab her bag, and head out the door before I even have the chance.

I know that I’ll see her tomorrow. And the next day, and the next. I’ll even see her walking up and down the same streets in Brooklyn hours after our morning gym sessions, and think about the friendship that could have been. But instead, we remain opponents to an invisible, never-ending game. I have to confess that I like it a little bit; the way I push myself harder just because I can’t let her see me slow down. If having a gym rival is helping me get freakishly fit, I guess I’m not going to sweat a little healthy competition.

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